Portrait of Basho, 1700s. Ichijun (Japanese, active 1700s). Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper; painting only: 28.2 x 47 cm (11 1/8 x 18 1/2 in.); including mounting: 112.5 x 64.2 cm (44 5/16 x 25 1/4 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 1988.72
The 15th-century poet Matsuo Basho is still considered Japan’s greatest master of the haiku poem, a short, 17-syllable verse form that relates some aspect of nature to the human experience. Although he was one of the most celebrated men of his day, he pursued a simple life of self-imposed poverty and solitude. In this portrait, Ichijun alluded to Matsuo’s haiku about the transient life: warau beshi naku beshi, waga asagao no, shibomu toki (to smile or to cry when my face in the morning [glory] is wilted).